Band Bios


(photos by Parry Heidi)

 Al Anderson – trombone

A native of Austin, Minnesota (home of SPAM and the SPAM Museum), Al Anderson has been a resident of Watertown, Wisconsin since 1977 and taught middle school band there for 30 years.  An active professional trombonist, Al has performed over the years with a variety of jazz groups, including the the Dick Jurgens, Guy Lombardo and Jan Garber Orchestras; Joe Scalissi’s Dry Martinis; the Mitch Henck Big Show Band; Red Hot Dixie Jazz Band; and the Fireside Dinner Theatre Band.  Al joined the  Sizzlers in 2008.   Now retired from teaching, he spends time performing shows about big band music and American songwriters for seniors, and playing trombone for anyone who calls with money.


Jim Jackson – cornet

Hailing originally from Baraboo, Wisconsin, Jim Jackson started playing in dance groups in 1974, playing in Wisconsin Dells during the summer, and also at many weddings and private parties.  He came to Madison in 1984  and joined The Lost Century Jazz Band (LCJB) as their full time trumpet, where he started learning Trad Jazz tunes.  After the death of LCJB leader Ken Dulin, Jim successfully worked to keep the band together for several years.  Then Charlie Mears called, and said that Skip Zach wanted a Dixieland band for Monday nights at the Avenue Bar.  That was 1994, and over 17 years later, Jim is still at it with his silver cornet.  Jim also plays in several other big bands and small dance groups including The Freistadt Alte Kameraden German Brass Band, the Madison Brass Band, The Monday Morning Dixie Band, the Capitol City Band, the Jerry Stich Circus Band, the Quartzite Brass Quintet, the Jerry Stich Big Band, the Jimmy Hartweg Band, and the Gem City Combo, to name a few.  Jim currently volunteers as a bugler for the Madison Veterans Firing Squad.  Jim also taught music for five years, worked as a computer programmer for about 22 years, has been a parking valet, works as a merchandiser for Kohl's Department Stores, and partners with his wife Linda in some home-based business.
 

Tom Kennedy – drums

A native of Jefferson Wisconsin, Sizzlers drummer Tom Kennedy joined the Air Force directly out of high school, and after four years of service, went to work in the printing industry, retiring from Webcrafters in 1993.  As a musician, Tom took his first drum lessons in school at age 8 and played his first dance band gig while still a junior in high school.  Working the thriving southern Wisconsin dance and club scene, Tom played with the Dan Garson Orchestra from the late 1950s into the early 1970s and then jobbed with smaller groups in many now-gone venues such as the Idle Hour, Cuba Club, and Chalet St. Moritz, to name a few.  Tom is a charter member of the Sizzlers, joining the band for its only two rehearsals and first gig in May of 1994.

 

 Mike Powers – keys

Mike Powers is a retired Choral Director from Portage, Wisconsin.  He worked in the Portage school district for over 35 years, having taught grades 4 though 12 over the years. In addition to overseeing all the varied styles of choir activity in a typical high school music department, he also directed drama and music in 26 musicals .  He played keyboard for the Wisconsin Opry show band for 30 summer seasons.  Most Sunday mornings, he can be found at the pipe organ console of the Portage United Methodist Church.  He has organized many fund raising concerts in the Portage area for arts and charitable organizations, and enjoys sitting in with local swing and Dixie bands and participating in local theatre groups.



Joel Engelland – banjo

Joel Engelland came to the Sizzlers in 2008.  Prior to that he performed at the Showboat Saloon in the Wisconsin Dells during the late 1960s and 1970s and also in other locales as varied as Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Germany.  While stationed with the US Army in Germany in the early 70s, teamed with an upright bass/piano player from Philadelphia and won the United States Army-Europe Entertainment Contest in Berlin, Germany, besting contestants from all the Army bases throughout Europe. He is also an accomplished guitarist.  During the day, he assumes the role of a mid-mannered landscape architect.  Working primarily in south-central WI, he has also completed projects in Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

 

 Anna Purnell – vocals

Raised on jazz, opera, ethnic music, and head-phones-only rock and roll listening, Anna Purnell, a Milwaukee native studied with Richard Davis and Joan Wildman, but is entirely to blame for the way she turned out.  Anna currently dons a beehive wig to front the lounge band The Velvet Smash, and is a veteran of the Quickies, the jazz groups Six of One and Ladies Must Swing, and the Reptile Palace Orchestra.  She’s the adjunct vocalist with Klezmer phenoms Yid Vicious, and one-third of a women's acapella group called The Murder Sisters.  She also recently started a traditional Balkan band called the Intemperance Collective.  By day, Anna is a full-time faculty member in the English department at Madison College.  Her greatest accomplishment is persuading Sizzlers clarinetist Greg Smith that he should be her husband.

 

 Greg Smith – reeds

This Madison, Wisconsin native and charter member of the Sizzlers has been the bass clarinetist in the Madison Symphony Orchestra since the early 1970s.  Greg Smith’s other current musical endeavors include the Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble, Capitol City Band, Yid Vicious (Klezmer), Intemperance Collective (Balkan), Reptile Palace Orchestra (Balkan lounge funk), North Country Drifters (Western swing), and Grupo Candela (salsa, bachata, meringue).  In a past life, he held a variety of non-musical positions with the State of Wisconsin, and ishappily married to the band’s vocalist, Anna Purnell.

 

 

Johnny Widdicombe – bass

A 2003 graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music, Johnny Widdicombe began performing in the Chicago area in the 1970s as an actor and musician, studying double bass with Rufus Reid and Charles (Truck) Parham.  He also continues to sing and play with the Piper Road Spring Band as he has since 1977.  
In the mid 1980s, Johnny moved to the Madison Area where he plays with various ensembles, including the Jeff Peronto Jazz Orchestra, Wholly Cats, Six Appeal, The American Jazz Express, The Harris Lemberg Trio, and since, 2011, the Sizzlers. 
Also in recent years, Johnny has performed with various duet partners on Saturday evenings at Liliana's Restaurant in Fitchburg.  He has also performed across the U.S., The Netherlands, France, England, Scotland, Finland, the Soviet Union and at numerous schools, colleges, universities, concert halls, music festivals and - most notably - at saloons.